Home Language & Literature The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates
This section discusses socio-political factors that impeded the translation flow. Both, the German and the British governments controlled to different extents the press output of the Manchester Guardian. Moreover, in light of the eminent role newspapers played in the shaping of on-going political debates, the section also explores political considerations by the Manchester Guardian editor.
The Ministry of Propaganda and the (foreign) press
The NSDAP, and foremost Joseph Goebbels, were acutely aware of the influence the press exerted on politics. Efforts were made to streamline the German press output by instructing the journalists attending press conferences and through (strictly confidential) guidelines about the government’s views on current issues and how the press was expected to report on them (Longerich 238). Due to ongoing quarrels between Goebbels’s Ministry of Propaganda and Joachim von Ribbentrop’s Foreign Ministry, there was some room for manoeuvre for the journalists. However, there is no doubt that a considerable amount of pressure was exerted on the press to avoid unfavourable reports. With the implementation of the Schriftleitergesetz (editor law) in October 1933, all Jewish people were excluded from working in any profession related to journalism (Bramsted 89). Although foreign correspondents who were Jewish could not be kept from reporting on the Third Reich, Werth’s previously discussed case illustrates that their task was intentionally made very difficult, thus tampering with the translation flow.
Initially, the efforts of the Ministry of Propaganda focused on the German press. However, attention soon turned to foreign press releases. Indeed, Goebbels employed his future wife Magda Quant - fluent in German, English, French and Italian - to monitor, translate and archive what the foreign press wrote about Goebbels and the Third Reich (Gathman and Paul 151). The foreign press output was guided in two ways. On the one hand, German intelligence watched the correspondent’s every move and intervened with withdrawal of phone privileges, written warnings, suggestions to leave the country and expulsions when the correspondents or their newspapers wrote unfavourable reports about the regime (Bramsted 122). On the other hand, Goebbels and Ribbentrop founded foreign press clubs and courted the foreign correspondents by granting them special favours and privileges in order to gain their compliance. Furthermore, “[t]he treatment of the foreign journalists quite naturally depended on the course of the foreign policy” (Bramsted 118) and on the newspaper’s stance towards Germany.
The critical and thus sometimes unfavourable reports of the Manchester Guardian placed Lambert under a constant threat of expulsion. In a telegram to Crozier he wrote: “The Propaganda Ministry has informed the News Chronicle correspondent that in view of the attitude of the paper towards Germany and the reports it prints, it attached no importance to its Berlin staff which will be expelled unless the paper changes its attitude” (January/February 1937). Lambert then expresses his fear that the same would likely happen to him (ibid.). A similar cause for concern was another journalist’s expulsion from Germany in August of the same year. For fear of German reprisal, Crozier decided to exclude information about concentration camps and explained: “At the moment I would prefer to avoid the camps, because I don’t want to give Germany an immediate occasion of throwing out Lambert” (Crozier to Voigt 12/08/1937). This letter demonstrates how the pressure exerted by the NS government led to self-censorship not only of the German but also the foreign press. Again, the translation flow was disrupted.
As tensions rose on the political stage of Europe, another fear started to haunt Lambert. In March 1938 he wrote to his editor: “I should like to remind you that I expect the London office to warn me in case of danger of war. We were given a bad jolt when we learnt on March 11 (and officially next day) that the German army had been partly mobilised and had invaded Austria, particularly my wife. We would have been caught had there been hostilities” (18/03/1938). The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 indeed meant that all foreign journalists from hostile states had to immediately leave the Reich. This put an enormous strain on the translation flow from Germany to other countries. Although the expelled foreign correspondents continued working from other cities such as
Paris, the telegraphic connection to London was interrupted and costs to get the news across the Channel were exorbitant. “Some of the other people sent messages by radio to New York for relaying at tremendous costs to London (with no guarantee of reception), but that sort of extravagance was not for us of course” (04/09/1939). Financial downturn could also mean that quality newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian could sometimes find it too expensive to maintain the translation flow. Moreover, as the British popular press sought larger audiences, and thus sales, they were forced to reduce political news content as this was not to the taste of mass audiences (Chalaby 143 ff.).
Prior to the outbreak of war, however, there had been another crucial issue that obstructed Lambert’s work in Germany. In a comprehensive memorandum Lambert outlined the difficulties in getting access to reliable information (Lambert to Croizer 30/12/1936). Most foreign newspapers used the services of the (monopolistic) German news agency Deutsches Nachrichtenbtiro (DNB). Assuming that the information from the DNB was a promulgation of NS propaganda and thus unreliable, the Manchester Guardian had not subscribed to the agency, and so relied on other sources. According to Lambert, the three main alternatives constituted: (a) consulting German journalists working for German newspapers. The reports they provided were more comprehensive than those of the DNB but these journalists also had to keep state officials informed on what information had been given to whom; (b) contacting a group of “mysterious and dubious” people who were apparently able to obtain information from German intelligence. Lambert did not think that they could be trusted and suspected they were somehow involved with the Gestapo; (c) conversing with Germans who were willing to sell their articles to one or more non-competing foreign newspapers. While Lambert used this third source, it remained all the same difficult to deliver news at the same speed as those papers that regularly bought information from the DNB. Subsequently, information remained sometimes unpublished as it was no longer newsworthy or it reached the Manchester Guardians readership with a delay.
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